Magazine article History Today

President Truman Orders the Development of the Hydrogen Bomb

Magazine article History Today

President Truman Orders the Development of the Hydrogen Bomb

Article excerpt

January 31st, 1950

In September 1949 the American, British and Canadian governments announced that an atomic explosion had recently occurred in the Soviet Union. The Soviet news agency Tass responded, laughably blaming the blast on large-scale construction work, while reminding everyone that Soviet foreign minister Molotov had announced in 1947 that the USSR knew how to make an atomic bomb, but had no intention of using one.

In the United States there had been urgent secret discussion of a new and vastly powerful `super-bomb', but apparently the first President Truman heard of it was early in October 1949. Some of the Los Alamos scientists feared that the USSR might already be working on a hydrogen bomb and one of them, the arch-hawk, Edward Teller, urged the rapid development of a weapon with an explosive force equivalent to 16 million tons of TNT, 800 times as much as the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Senator Brien McMahon, chairman of the Joint Congressional Atomic Energy Committee, began pressing the president for a crash programme. Truman complained that he was `being blitzed into the thing by the military establishment', but he seems to have had little real doubt about what his decision would have to be. …

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